In May of 2009, Joe Avella challenged himself to take the next step on his path as a filmmaker by writing, directing and shooting a full length film entitled “The Master of Inventions.” The film follows an ill-fated inventor trying to make good and was commenced with a very unique and difficult challenge. For the project to be a success the budget has to remain at zero; almost two years of shooting, the use of multiple locations and costumes, props and actors all has to end up costing Avella nothing.
A “zero-dollar” project is a rarity in the production of full length films but one that Avella believes is not only necessary to completing the project, but advantageous to his growth as a filmmaker. For him too many young filmmakers end up putting the horse before the cart when it comes to making their first full length feature. Avella stated: “…you have to have your creative voice out there. You can’t be bogged down in maxing out credit cards and hoping you can find this big-name person to be connected to your production.” Avella’s cast and crew are friends, his location and costumes are donated and he does all the production work himself; the limitations imposed by his budget require it. At the same time, such constraints are teaching him to be resourceful and creative while sharpening his production skills. He also believes his ability to complete the film for no money will make him better able to determine where to spend money when he does have it. Referring to his next project, Avella said: “I’m using this movie as leverage. So I can say: I did this for no money. Imagine what I could do with just a little bit.”
Avella first began making films for fun in high school. The early work got him interested in comedy and he began taking Writing classes at Second City and training at the iO Theater. But the traditional path didn’t fit. “What I did when I got to Chicago is I acted like everybody else and got nothing. It wasn’t until I really started doing the work that I enjoyed and was proud of that things started opening up for me,” he recollected.
Over time, he found people whom he liked and carved out a niche for himself. Avella joined the Playground Incubator Team “CEO of Everything” and met Jeff Murdoch, who is playing the lead role in “The Master…” He also formed a long standing relationship with Tim Racine; together they form the sketch group “Teenager of the Year.”
Avella reflected on the short sightedness of many young improvisers and writers: “I see a lot of people who throw fits when they have been doing this for a year or two and aren’t famous and they are like 22 or 23.” Having been through that himself, there is a security and satisfaction that Avella finds in knowing that his work is his focus and getting better is his only goal. “I’m excited about the craft of what I do. I’m excited about learning more.” he said, “I want to do this for the rest of my life so I don’t care if this isn’t my job or if I don’t have my name out there for another five or ten years.” This tendency to look past the present moment and think bigger than the current project or challenge is a hallmark of Avella’s success and a big part of his decision to begin “The Master…” in the first place. “I wanted to learn how to make a movie and the only way I can think to do that is to make movie.”
For Avella, patience, hustle and creativity are the most important things. “If you love it you are going to work harder than anyone else and it’s not going to feel like work.” Avella’s focus is doing and enjoying his work. He’s not concerned with how long it takes or what he has to go through to get where he wants to be. “It’s very long and very unromantic.” he stated, “Wake up. You want to be famous or you want to be an artist. Which is it?”
Scenes from “The Master of Inventions” are already online. You can check them out here.
You can also become a fan on Facebook here.
Directors: Joe Avella
Performers: Jeff Murdoch
video: The Master of Inventions